Does this cover scream FRAT BOY! to anyone else? The quasitribal design is just too much to bear ... tribal armband tattoo ... without experiencing a flood of connotations ... tribal armband tattoo ... that may negatively impact one's first impression of the record ... tribal armband tattoo. We're going to guess that Richmond, Virginia's Smoke or Fire didn't intend to pigeonhole itself in such a way, but the fact of the matter is that bold art sends bold messages. In other words, most people could tell you exactly what the music sounds like without ever listening to it. Whether they'd be right is beyond the scope of this column, and, for the sake of argument, completely irrelevant.
Turn the case over and matters don't improve much. We get to see a picture of the members of Smoke or Fire, looking a little punk and a little indie (can you say "post-hardcore?"), and certainly trying to appear as tough as possible. Tattoos are visible, but alas, no tribal armbands. Framing the picture is more of the same design from the front.
Anyone familiar with San Francisco's Fat Wreck Chords will give Smoke or Fire the benefit of the doubt by perhaps disregarding all the signs that point to Trapt, Dredg, or whoever else is renovating alterna-metal at the moment. Fat Wreck is a punk label, and a reputable one at that, so perhaps Smoke or Fire sounds more like Hot Water Music and its ilk than anything else. A good listen should clear things up. In the meantime, check out that sick design on the cover! It'd look awesome on your arm.